Tapas is the ultimate in shareable fare. Yet, for those following gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher, vegan, or vegetarian diets, navigating the many classic dishes featuring bread, meat, cheese, and seafood can be a challenge. Just think: pork sausage, garlic shrimp, bread with olive oil, Manchego cheese, meatballs.
That’s why the recently opened Ibiza Kitchen in Chappaqua, whose tapas menu is divided into “vegan,” “vegetarian,” “from the farm,” and “from the sea” sections and designates dishes as gluten-free or dairy-free, is such a welcome addition to the local dining scene.
If you appreciate local and seasonal produce, you’ll be pleased to learn that the restaurant sources its fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets.
In addition to offering options for all diets, many of the restaurant’s tapas are creative and artful. For instance, its unusual Spanish-Japanese fusion salmon dish features seaweed and sherry vinegar. Meanwhile, tender boquerones (anchovies) and avocado contrast beautifully with the crunchy toasts on which they sit. Vegan calçots (grilled leeks) were served with bland beets, but the plating resembled a museum-worthy painting.
Most exciting, the vibrant, uber-flavorful trapantojo stars riced raw cauliflower, bell peppers, curry, and mint. “I could eat a bowlful of this every day,” said my dining companion, with which I heartily agreed. Similarly, the chicken empanadas, with textbook-perfect pastry, and the expertly fried clam-chowder croquettes are must-tries. The tender gambas (shrimp) and steamed, sliced pulpo (octopus) are also worth ordering.
Unfortunately, though, the inclusive nature of the menu comes at a price. Most tapas are quite small, meaning the average diner will require four or five plates. For instance, the anchovies, salmon, shrimp, and octopus are gone in four to five bites. The most economical way to compose a meal of tapas is to order the panceta (pork belly). Larger in size, the rich and tender meat would require a mere two additional tapas to compose a satisfying meal.
Although the platos, or entrée plates, prove to be a more cost-effective option, I did not find them worth ordering. The costillitas (baby back ribs), though fall-off-the-bone, were paired with a not-fully-cooked potato purée, and the plate itself looked wan and cafeteria-like. Despite the dish being colorful, the pollo (chicken) was bland. Least impressive of all, despite our waiter suggesting we order it medium-rare, the pato asado (duck) was chewy and overcooked.
Desserts are a mixed bag. Though the waitstaff hyped the torrija (bread pudding), my dining companion and I found it wanting: a small, bland rectangle of white bread.
Similarly, the blanco y negro (white chocolate and basil crème with chocolate mousse) is small and insufficiently sweet. On the other hand, the crema Catalana — basically, crème brûlée — is well-executed. The tres leches (three-milk cake), more of a trifle, features the unusual addition of pear cider cream. Creamy and flavorful, I would order it again.
Not surprising for a restaurant with a prominent bar, the two cocktails we tried were also worth a reorder — a refreshing gin and tonic with fresh mint and strawberries, and a smoked Old Fashioned. As for the wine list, Ibiza could offer more than five by-the-glass options.
Although the food was uneven, the service was consistently positive. On both visits, the staff was welcoming and warm. During our second meal, our waiter insisted on bringing a bowl of ice cream, gratis, just for our son. Owner Ignacio Blanco and other team members also checked in frequently and quickly removed dirty plates and refilled water glasses.
Equally important: Both meals were expertly timed — not surprising, considering Blanco has a 20-year track record as a restaurateur, having opened Meigas in TriBeCa and establishments in Connecticut.
As for the backdrop, the ambience is modern, sleek, and slightly spare, with gray, wood-paneled walls, a wooden floor, and sleek black flatware. Diners sit on chairs or upholstered couches (which are, oddly, too low relative to the height of the tables). Non-distracting, the décor takes a backseat to the food.
Overall, if you’re a light eater — especially, if you’re adhering to a special diet — consider visiting this newcomer. You’ll receive a warm welcome and be inspired by the novel, photogenic, mostly well-executed tapas.
76 King St, Chappaquaâ€‹
For more restaurant reviews, visit westchestermagazine.com/restaurantreviews
Cos Cob-based Dina Cheney is the author of six cookbooks and writes about food, health, and wellness for numerous publications.